The Birth of Fast Food in America

In the early part of the 20th century, most Americans either packed a lunch themselves or ate at home. Slowly, the convenience (and fun) of quickly obtaining food won the country over.

The Automat

The Automat was the first food vending machine, although there had been earlier such machines that dispensed stationery and even water. The Automat was invented in Berlin and made its way to America in 1902, where it became extremely popular. This was a huge machine that lined the walls of a café. Clear doors displayed the food inside. When a customer found something they wanted to eat, they would drop in a coin and the glass door would slide up, giving them the opportunity to extract their choice.

The Modern Vending Machine

Compared to the Automat, most modern vending machines are just not that exciting. Instead of the delicious array of fresh foods the Automat offered, most vending machines today hold only common packaged items like snack chips, candy bars and cookies. They are also in constant need of vending machine services because the coin reservoir gets full or the wire mechanism that pushes your choice forward stops working.

Today’s customers want healthier choices than are usually available, but that means the machines need to be kept chilled and a service person will need to stop by every day to remove expired and spoiled food.

The Fast Food Restaurant

Vending machines are the ultimate in instant food gratification, but fast food restaurants are a close second. White Castle was the first fast food chain in American. It opened in 1921 and was quickly followed by McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Burger King.

America loves food and it also loves speed and convenience. Vending machines and fast food got people out of the kitchen and made it possible to obtain food immediately.